Christmas is a time for families to come together, reconnect and have a joy ol' time. For some families, it's the only time they see each other all year and while for adults festive catch-ups can a blast (assuming old family disagreements stay in the past), for children greeting so many strangers can be overwhelming. Especially when they're encouraged to hug relatives and family friends, who may feel like strangers.
As reported by Metro UK, Girl Scouts of America (the equivalent of our Girl Guides Australia) have released a reminder to parents in the lead up to Christmas that you shouldn’t be forcing children to hug or kiss relatives.
We’ve all seen it happen, and we may even be the parents pushing it on our children: A relative gifts a child a present and in response the child is told to “give your uncle a hug” as a thank you for the gift. Meanwhile, the child is obviously hesitant and unsure.
WATCH the most anticipated Christmas commercial of 2017. Article continues after video...
According to Girls Scouts, herein lies the problem. The organisation suggests, telling your child that they owe someone affection in exchange for a gift can set the stage for the child to question whether they ‘owe’ another person any type of physical affection if, for instance, someone buys them dinner, later in life. The bottom line is; it’s never too soon to teach children about respect and consent.
Developmental psychologist, Dr Andrea Bastiani Archibald, speaking for the Girl Scouts of America, explains: "The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children."
"But the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older."
Of course many children may naturally want to hug or kiss family members – and that’s okay. However, if your child is hesitant to show affection to someone they may not see often or know well, then encourage a different type of interaction. Insist on your child saying hello, giving a wave and engaging in a conversation, rather than forcing them into physical contact that will make them feel shy and uncomfortable.